as Winston Churchill's favourite film, (possibly because Korda allowed
him to write some of the dialogue) it was made during the height of
World War II, and partly meant to serve as an exercise in morale-boosting
amongst the British troops. One could hardly miss the obvious parallels,
the Napoleonic Wars, ‘old friends like Naples’, a crazed
dictator and of course appeasement. I’m sure critics would point
these out as too obvious and perhaps even propaganda but this film was
made in a time of war and (duh) was meant to provide a one sided view
of the conflict.
the historical content of the film (whilst impressive and stirring)
is not the only factor that makes this film truly great. What about
Leigh and Olivier? They made two films together before they were wed,
but this one is the only one they would ever make as husband and wife.
Fresh into their marriage, this film is a celebration of their real-life
love. The on-screen chemistry between the two is visually apparent.
The costumes and settings are lavish and eye-appealing. Vivien's close
ups are remarkably beautiful and stunning.
Leigh in this film simply takes my breath away – and no I don’t
necessarily mean because she is stunningly beautiful – the acting
(and sub acting) which she creates is brilliant. By sub acting I mean
whenever in character she plays another person from the movie (usually)
Nelson. I have included a video clip to show you what I mean. Olivier
is on his reliably omnipotent best – films are meant to illicit
you towards the key roles – make you emphasize with them and Olivier
does this brilliantly. His frustration at Naples whenever they wouldn’t
allow him to dock, his anger at appeasement in the war room –
the regardment of Emma in every scene.
Hart (Vivien Leigh), a young woman of easy virtue, arrives in Naples
to marry the son of Sir William Hamilton. It soon becomes apparent that
the son has no intentions of marrying her, and so she enters into a
marriage of convenience with Sir William himself. Years pass and Emma,
now Lady Hamilton, meets the acquaintance of Lord Horatio Nelson (Olivier),
and they embark on a thrilling affair. Emma's reputation is pulled through
the mud and Nelson returns to battle Napoleon's approaching forces,
as the romance rushes to it's tearful conclusion.